Critical Notes

Ringing in 2020 With Member News and Reviews

By Mark Athitakis

Elif Shafak, photographed by Ebru Bilun. Elif Shafak, photographed by Ebru Bilun.

Before we get into the member news, an important note about the Leonard Prize:

NBCC members who joined the reading committee for the 2019 John Leonard Prize for first book were emailed ballots on January 3. The deadline for submitting ballots is January 9, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. EST. As a reader we ask that you vote for one (and only one) of the seven finalist titles.  If you signed up to be a reader and did not receive your ballot, please email NBCC Board member Lori Feathers:

Now, on to the reviews:

Lauren Oyler reviewed Anna Wiener’s memoir, Uncanny Valley, for the cover of the New York Times Book Review.

NBCC member Claude Peck asked a dozen LGBTQ+ writers (Adam Haslett, Dianna Hunter, Brian Malloy, Greg Hewett, more) and critics about their preferences when it comes to writing frankly about sex and sexuality. Their answers appeared in Quatrefolio, the twice-yearly newsletter of Quatrefoil Library in Minneapolis.

Gayle Feldman wrote a remembrance of the late Knopf chief Sonny Mehta for the Bookseller. 

Caroline Tew considered the best books of the 2010s for the Harvard Crimson.

Anne Charles reviewed Burn It Down: Women Writing About Anger, edited by Lily Dancyger, for Lambda Literary Review.

Board member Kerri Arsenault reviewed Cynthia Anderson’s Home Now: How 6000 Refugees Transformed an American Town for Air Mail.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay in his Murder Ink column for the Durango Telegraph in Durango, Colorado.

Sam Dibella interviewed novelist K Chess for Adroit Journal.

Dana Wilde reviewed Elizabeth Hand’s mystery Curious Toys and A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the ClimateCrisis, edited by Meghan Sterling and Kathleen Sullivan, in his Off Radar column in the Central Maine Newspapers.

Kamil Ahsan reviewed Marie NDiaye’s  novel The Cheffe in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Erika Fatland’s Sovietistan for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Anna Sherman’s travel book The Bells of Old Tokyo for the Wall Street Journal.

Board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Crissy Van Meter’s debut novel, Creatures, for the Los Angeles Times.

Karl Wolff reviewed three poetry collections—Matthew Tierney’s Midday at the Super-kamiokande, Tess Liem’s Obits, and Nasser Hussain’s SKY WRI TEI NGSfor the Driftless Area Review.

Anita Felicelli reviewed E.J. Koh’s memoir The Magical Language of Others for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sarah Neilson spoke with Staceyann Chin about her new poetry collection, Crossfire, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Julia M. Klein reviewed three #MeToo books for the Boston Globe‘s year-end book roundup, and reviewed Deirdre Bair’s memoir Parisian Lives for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Elif Shafak’s novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World for World Literature Today.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed From the Shadows by Juan Jose Millais, trans. Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn, for World Literature Today.

And in member news:

New member Rafael Castillo, a regular monthly OpEd writer for the San Antonio Express-News, had a short Christmas story published on Christmas Eve titled “On the Nose about Christmas Spirit.”

Sarah Sarai‘s poetry collection, That Strapless Bra in Heaven, was published by Kelsay Books last November.

Olga Zilberbourg and Yelena Furman have started a blog, Punctured Lines, to highlight underrepresented voices in Russian and post-Soviet literature.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf‘s debut novel, When All Else Fails, was selected by The New Arab as one of the best books by Arab authors in 2019.

Anita Felicelli‘s cli-fi short story “Until the Seas Rise” was published at Terrain; her novel Chimerica was published in September by WTAW Press.

Xujun Eberlein‘s essay “The Cremation” received a special mention in Pushcart Prize 2020.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to